Red Flower Goes West

Ann Warren Turner, Author, Dennis Nolan, Illustrator Hyperion Books $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7868-0313-2
Turner's (Shaker Hearts; Angel Hide and Seek) somewhat labored story of a family's difficult journey to the California gold rush territory is filled with details familiar to most adults, but centered on an idiosyncrasy. At the beginning, the narrator's mother tells his father, ""You can ask me to leave my home and friends, but this flower came from Mother's garden. Where I go, this flower goes too."" The symbol of the uprooted flower, though sometimes heavy-handed, generally works as a unifying device for the travails of the transplanted family. Occasionally, however, James's and his family's concern for the flower seems not only needlessly anthropomorphic but misplaced. While they risk dehydration in crossing ""the drylands,"" James shares his tiny allotment of water with the plant (""I told [my sister], `If that flower dies, we'll never get to California' ""). When James's father almost drowns, James ""clutche[s] Red Flower, [tells] her to watch over Pa,"" and then credits the flower for helping ""somehow"" to save Pa's life. The illustrations are poignant in their spareness, if not particularly childlike. As with antique photographs, Nolan's (Dinosaur Dream) finely etched portraits and landscapes are barely tinted with color, except for the red geranium that looms as an emblem of the family's hope. Ages 5-9. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/31/1999
Release date: 06/01/1999
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